Stretching is a hugely important part of any fitness routine. Before and after taxing a muscle a good stretch to the same muscle will help it maintain its flexibility and elasticity. Stretching will improve blood flow to the muscle and help it maintain its length. That being said, there is more than one way to stretch.
There are as many as 7 different types of stretching. They are: ballistic stretching, dynamic stretching, active stretching, passive stretching, static stretching, isometric stretching, and PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching. In the interest of keeping things basic in this post I am going to focus on the main 2 that I use and prescribe. Those are dynamic and static stretching.
Dynamic stretching consists of actively moving a body part. These types of stretches are typically done before a workout as a warmup. It can include simple basic movements such as: shoulder circles, neck circles, marching in place, core twists, and hip circles.
A good dynamic stretching routine should only take 3-5 minutes. The movements should cover most of, if not all of, the muscle groups of the body. They should only serve as a way to loosen up the muscles and warm the body. Dynamic stretches should not cause pain, if they do immediately stop and contact your doctor.
Static stretches are the most common type of stretches and likely the most familiar to even the beginner when it comes to exercise. They consist of stretching a particular muscle as far as it comfortable, and holding it for an indeterminable amount of time. Some common static stretches include quadriceps, calves, lower back, pectoral, and many other muscles.
A good static stretching routine can be as little as 5 minutes but there is no harm in stretching for longer. These stretches should be held at a minimum of 15-30 seconds but longer is okay as well. It is not necessary to stretch every single muscle after every single workout. However, it is imperative to stretch the muscles that have been specifically used during a particular workout. For example, if you went for a run it is not necessary to stretch the pectoral muscles, but it is highly recommended to stretch quads, hamstrings, etc.
The key to stretching is to remember it meant to be a warmup and cool down after a workout. These movements should not be so strenuous that they cause pain. A major benefit of stretching is that the movements can be performed every day.
If you have any questions about dynamic or static stretches please send us an email, give us a call, or drop by. We’d love to help in any way we can!
by Christopher Setterlund